Planning for the future of a loved one with special needs can be a very difficult road to embark upon. In fact, the process is so disturbing to some of us as parents that we never begin the process. Rather, we attend workshop after workshop, listen to all the reasons why we need to plan, and then go home and fail to take action. This article will attempt to identify some of the common barriers that may prevent many of us not only from beginning, but also completing, the special needs planning process.
The word procrastinate comes from the late 16th century Latin word procrastinare, "to put off until tomorrow." The dictionary also defines procrastination as, "to postpone doing something, especially as a regular practice."
Procrastination is one of the biggest reasons why we do not begin the planning process. We frequently remark that we know that we need to plan and will get to it in the future. Unfortunately, days, weeks, months, even years pass before the planning process begins. The awareness of needing to plan is always present, but we are often overwhelmed with doctors' visits, therapy sessions, school meetings, and the day-to-day complexities of providing for our child with special needs. As a result, we must prioritize our time, energy, and efforts. Future planning efforts are too important to be placed on the back burner!
GUILT, DENIAL, AND FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN:
Powerful emotions often paralyze parents and prevent us from developing a future plan for our child. We often blame ourselves for our child's disability and wonder whether we are responsible in some way for our child's situation. These self-recriminations can often prevent positive action and create feelings of hopelessness and inertia. However, positive future planning can provide parents with peace of mind and a sense of accomplishment.
Some parents deny and minimize the scope and nature of their child's disability, as a way to cope with the everyday stresses in their lives. While this denial can help parents to cope and function on a day-to-day basis, it can certainly delay and prevent future planning efforts. A well-developed plan which addresses a child's strengths and limitations and provides a clear roadmap for the future can be very reassuring to many parents.
The fear of the unknown can also prevent effective planning. Many parents have children with an undiagnosed disorder, which can complicate and even exacerbate these feelings. A well-developed plan can help reduce this fear and provide parents with the structure and guidelines that they may require. Since children's needs frequently change over time, trusts can be designed to be flexible to meet ever-changing needs.
THE MISCONCEPTION OF "LIVING FOREVER:"
Many people cannot accept the fact that they will not live forever. This sense of "immortality" prevents some parents from visualizing what the life of their child will be after they pass on, and what possible plan can be set up to provide quality lifetime care. It is very common to see parents in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, who have yet to do any planning for their child with special needs. Even if someone comes from a long line of "good genes," there is always a chance of a person's health deteriorating before beginning the planning process. In situations like these, some of the classic funding vehicles such as life insurance can become cost-prohibitive and may no longer be viable options.
IDENTIFYING A FUTURE CAREGIVER:
The lack of a future caregiver or guardian is perhaps one of the greatest stumbling blocks that parents must overcome before they can develop a plan for their child with special needs. Parents need answers to the following questions before they can plan effectively:
* Who would be willing to accept responsibility to care for my child and care for him as well as I do?
* Who truly understands my child's needs? …